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Sean McDermott and Doug Whaley

JW: The long build

Jeremy White



Hi there!  You might remember me from such contentious rebuilds as “The Buffalo Sabres”, and… no that’s the only one really. I drove the Sabres tank and I’d drive it again if the same situation presented itself. The Sabres tank was a perfect storm of guaranteed talent for an achievable result. Everything that’s happened since the tank is up for debate, but the tank itself isn’t.  

As you read this article please understand that this is not so much an argument that the Bills should tank, but rather a broad look that indicates to me that things could be lining up that way.

If you own the team... isn't this a conversation you have?


The Bills, owners of a 17 year playoff drought, seem to be in a spot that isn’t that hard to compare to the Sabres pre-tank.  The drought hangs over the franchise, clouding our vision sometimes on what the goal should ultimately be. The Bills have been slapping band-aids on middling teams hoping to get hot and finally kill off that playoff drought. Bills fans often look at the Chiefs and the life they live.  During the regular season we envy Kansas City. Then the playoffs roll around and we’re reminded that they’re really not much further along than Buffalo.  Is that a better life than ours? Probably, but it’s still well short of the big win.


The Pegulas do not have an impressive win-loss record as sports owners, but it’s fairly clear that they’re in it for the long term, and want to build with that mindset. They set out to turn Buffalo into more of a destination for youth hockey players, something that has most certainly been a success. While we ultimately care about wins and losses, as we should, there are other investments into the big picture that should indicate they plan ahead and think big.


Let’s play a quick game. Who said this:


"We’re not looking to just make the playoffs. We want to build this from the foundation up, a team that can consistently compete for championships."


A)  Former Sabres President Ted Black

B)  Current Bills GM Doug Whaley


The answer is B, but it takes you right back to the Sabres build, doesn’t it?  


Days after telling the assembled media that he believed the Bills to be “close”, Whaley changed his tune and sounded like a pre-tank Sabres employee talking about championships. Plural.  

Ted Black famously said on our airwaves that the Sabres COULD gun for 8th place, but that's not what they were interested in anymore. It sure seems like this is Whaley's new approach as well.  


So should the Bills tank?  


IF, and that’s a big if, you want the Bills to tank you’re probably looking at three things:


1.  The Coach doesn’t have to win right away


There really aren’t any expectations for Sean McDermott. He’s never been a head coach in the NFL, so we don’t have a record to hold against him. Rex’s arrival in Buffalo brought with it expectations to have a dominant defense. The Bills had the talent, and Ryan had the resume. It was reasonable to expect the Bills to be good on that side of the ball. Ryan made promises about the product and the playoffs and failed to deliver on either. Sean McDermott will make no big bold promise.  His defense enters next year with what expectations? Stephon Gilmore will likely leave. What ranking would you take from the defense to think that McDermott is on the right track? Top 5? Top….15? It will likely be talked about as a work in progress. There will be no reports of “playoffs or else” because no one would believe those. Frankly, he doesn’t have to win at all in his first year.  


2.  The schedule is a gauntlet of fire


In 2017 the Bills are scheduled to play:


Matt Ryan

Derek Carr

Drew Brees

Andrew Luck
Philip Rivers

Cam Newton

Jameis Winston

Alex Smith

Andy Dalton

Denver’s guy 


Oh yeah, and Tom Brady twice.  For a moment, let’s pretend that he’s mortal, bleeds, and might want to retire at some point. Please… just go with me on this. I promise you, he will retire at some point. I think. Ok, moving on….


The division is off the table. Why put so much into being as good as you can this year? As long as he’s around, they’re winning the division.  So…effectively sit a year out on the drought-obsession and build for the future. Let the Patriots, and their obnoxious way, culture itself to another division title. A team that is building for the long term in the AFC East should be aiming to be the team that comes out on top in the post-Brady era. The Patriots' dominance has been the defining characteristic of the AFC East, and it’s one that will soon expire. If I’m running the Bills I’m trying to find a way to be the one that comes out with the best QB. The Patriots are looking to trade Jimmy Garoppolo, and if they are successful in pulling that off, they have ZERO plan at QB going forward. I’m sure they’ll call Satan and make another deal that gets them a 6th round QB that comes in and redefines greatness at the position. The schedule just serves to show you that they’ll probably miss the playoffs as presently constructed. Of course, everything changes with the right QB and that brings us to….

3.  The looming call on QB


All of this assumes that the Bills don’t plan on taking a QB with the 10th pick. We’d all agree that’s possible, but I’m not sure too many Bills fans would call it likely. If the Bills take one of the top guys in this year's draft, I'll be thrilled. I won't pretend to know whether or not the guy is going to be any good, but I'll be happy that they're taking a swing. If they come out of the draft without a highly touted QB, then I think this tank scenario becomes more and more likely....and by all accounts the 2018 Draft is looking niiiiiiiice for QB prospects:


Josh Rosen 


Sam Darnold 


Lamar Jackson 


The Bills could bring back Tyrod Taylor or find a cheaper bridge-guy, like Nick Foles. Even if they get average-to-good play at the QB position, how many wins would you expect them to get? Where does a Bills team with a limited QB and this defense top out? What’s the point of targeting the 2018 draft if you’re not going to have a plan on where your pick is in 2018.  You might not have to be picking #1, but you’re going to want to be pretty close to the top.


A new coach with a bad defense that’s likely losing a big piece, uncertainty at QB, a murderous schedule, a division that’s off the table, and a top-heavy QB class in the upcoming draft…


Sooooo….Are we lining up for a ta-- Err... Long build?  




*Note - We know players don’t tank. Teams do.


Ok, now set fire to the comments section!!!!


01/30/2017 8:55AM
JW: The long build
Please enter your comments below.
01/30/2017 9:25AM
This isn't hockey Jeremy
If you want one of the QBs you just mentioned, then they'd have to trade 90% of the roster between now and the beginning of the season. Also, even if they were able to pull this off and they do end up going 0-16, or 1-15, Roger Goodell would probably make the Bills forfeit their pick for deliberately tanking.
01/30/2017 9:41AM
Hey Jeremy
Are you going to talk about how the Patriots aren't a good team again?
01/30/2017 9:45AM
Wants to Retire
Jeremy, speaking of wanting to retire, isn't it time for you to hang it up yet?
01/30/2017 10:00AM
..............Wake me up.............
..............when the Bills are relevant again (Yaaaawwwwwwnnn!)
01/30/2017 10:00AM
while were at it . lets get a real anouncer who can folow the ball. DUMP JOHN MURPHY!!!!!
01/30/2017 10:04AM
In Theory Its Good...
I completely agree that the team should be focused on 2-4 seasons from now, and building for a sustainable run with a durable, in the pocket franchise QB. But in order to do so... you are essentially walking Watkins out the door for a fraction of pennies on the dollar... eating a giant Dareus contract... using Glenn's most useful seasons, as well as Incognito's final. Wasted money on McCoy and Clay... These would signal that Brandon and Whaley have messed up bad... and should be shown the door. Any plan created and executed should be by someone who is capable of building a football program. Why in the world would anyone trust these people to try again?
01/30/2017 10:08AM
T-word route VS. Tyrod Taylor route
Why do people of Buffalo only think in binary options? What rule is in place says we can't keep Tyrod, and draft 7 QBs come April? Why are Buffalonians/Reporters/Oweners/GMs stuck in this mindset of blowing it up & drafting a new guy OR keepingTyrod and drafting no one? If we continue to think like the NE Patriots, play like the NE Patriots, draft like the NE patriot way we will never be successful. We need to play the game a different way, or not just quit playing the game all together.
01/30/2017 10:08AM
NFL Football
In today's NFL there is no place for the word tank. To much money, Free Agency, better draft pool. Just need management that can be trusted. Unlike the Sabres,Bills Fans will not be as patient.
01/30/2017 10:21AM
Totally Torn
I don't know if I can handle anymore terrible play from the Bills, but ultimately, is there a difference between bringing back Tyrod and having us go 6-10 or letting him walk and bringing in yet another retread to go 3-13/2-14? The latter allows me to get a lot more work done on my Sunday afternoons from September - December and way less heartache (as I know the Bills will lose instead of mostly believing they will win and when they don't, being in a horrible mood for the next 3 days). There are a few stud QBs coming out next year and all knowledgeable fans have figured out by now that a top notch QB is the answer to the Super Bowl riddle. There will be major competition to land in the top 3 spots of the 2018 draft with the likes of Cleveland and San Francisco most likely not finding a solution to their QB woes, but I'm here hoping that the Bills free Kyle Williams up to go to the team of his choice and get a sniff of playoff football before his career is over. Tyrod could potentially get us to the playoffs, but is that the goal? If so, then that slows the ultimate goal of a Super Bowl win by many years. I say tank.
01/30/2017 10:31AM
Trading Down
And good management is the ultimate way to 'rebuild' in the NFL. Trade down and stockpile picks. Draft enough NFL players to have depth and sustain the system. On the side, you need to continue to take chances on a QB until you land one. Trading down and getting a multitude of picks is one way to do this. Tanking doesnt work in the NFL because many years you have non-QB 1st picks who do not change the fortunes of the franchise. Seattle picked in the top 10 in recent history (ahead of the Bills) and got Okung and Aaron Curry. The Bills do not have good management, so I expect them to languish with whatever plan they come up with. At that point we will see if Mr and Mrs Pegula are willing to change the 51 year failed course of this franchise
01/30/2017 10:52AM
01/30/2017 11:02AM
Re: In Theory It's Good
I mostly agree with you, but keep in mind, that the bills roster was pretty much built to be successful, except they couldn't find the QB that was the answer. Rexie didn't help matters either, but after all of the babble coming out over the past month or so, it sounds like he may not have been Doug's selection for head coach. If the Bills embrace a rebuild, then perhaps it would be time to replace Whaley and Co., but I would be okay if they kept him.
01/30/2017 11:05AM
Call it whatever you like tank
or rebuild, there is zero chance for a playoff team in 2017 - with or without Tyrod. New coaches, new scheme's, limited cap space, holes everywhere, and that gauntlet of opposing QB's - the Bill's will be lucky to go 4 - 12. With that in mind, move on from Taylor, trade down in the draft to acquire more picks, and weather the storm. Best guess says they can be competitive in 3 or 4 years if they get a qb in 2018's draft. Pegula's legacy to Buffalo: suffering!
01/30/2017 11:06AM
Theory is Good
Very good Article Jeremy.. It is a good theory but I also have to agree with the writer who suggested it would be foolhardy to do it with Whaley and Brandon at the helm.. It's time to move on from their deeply flawed body of work..... Tank? ...justdo it!
01/30/2017 11:53AM
Really White Boy? Dis football you a dummy wastin everbodys time!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
01/30/2017 11:54AM
I agree with
previous poster; we have too many good players to tank in one season. We are better served fixing what we can and drafting a developmental QB. I think finding another QB will provide about the same results as keeping Tyrod so I don't care which they choose. Fixing the D will have immediate results; worth 3 more wins i'd guess. Dareus must go; trade him for a draft pick or a QB prospect. Yes we will still eat his bonus---don't care. Those players who aren't there for the team should be jettisoned. Gilmore, good bye. those who don't fit the scheme, move them. There is no guaranteed outcome here folks whether you tank or adjust, just ask Tim Murray or Tom Donahoe.
01/30/2017 12:00PM
oh yes the rebuild....
Tell that to the crowds of 15,000 at the cap. What a mess...almost as bad as Trump's agenda.
01/30/2017 12:05PM
shake up
Guys. Murphy calls a good game. My hope this year is to build a process and discipline to play smart ball. eradicate the the disorder and confusion and play like a team. We need a QB for sure but not Watson
01/30/2017 12:18PM
Re: John Murphy
Murph is a nice guy, but not a good announcer. The guy who calls the Griff's hoops games, Jay Moran, would be the best local option for the Bills. Won't bother commenting on this article since it's so bad.
01/30/2017 1:38PM
you might want to:
Include Tannehill on that list. Now look at the 12 QBs next year. They don't even have to try and tank to go 4-12, 3-13. the freakin Jets beat us twice!! Again, I could NOT care less about the last 17 years. I deeply care about next 17. Say goodbye to Tyrod (he makes us better, but not near good enough), make due with Cardale, draft a safety at 10, a RT 2nd, WR 3rd, the backup QB for NEXT YEAR'S (2018) #1QB pick in the 4th
01/30/2017 1:44PM
All Aboard the Tank
yes, this team seems to have some talent. But so do most/all NFL teams. This was a 7-9 team that was closer to 4 wins than 11 (see: Jacoby Brissett's thumb and AJ Green's hammy if you need a refresher). With the new staff, Gilmore Woods likely gone, Aaron Williams a question mark, and a soon-to-be 34 yr old Kyle Williams and it's pretty easy to see how this team can go 3-13 or 4-12 in 2017. Bottoming out to get an actual bonafide QB prospect is something that should absolutely be considered. Is it a guarantee for success? No, but if OBD truly wants to have 'sustainable success' then it starts and stops with that position. What's one more year of bad football between us friends?
01/30/2017 2:04PM
It's not all or nothing.
Guys, calm down. It's not all or nothing. I'd rather see a 6-10 season than a 3-13. There's too much talent on this team. You bring back Gilmore, Alexander, Gillisle, toss T-Rod and start Cardale. Try and win 5-6 games this season while teaching Cardale and re-establishing some discipline on defense. Then go for the playoffs next season. Rex did a crappy job because he brought no discipline and confused our guys. All the Bills need is one year of a#& kicking and we will be back in contention. Lets all remember...we really only have Shady for another couple good years. So, we'd better make a go while we still have a solid running game
01/30/2017 3:09PM
01/30/2017 4:00PM
coming from the guy who talks about Tyrod Taylor every day like he's any kind of answer. GOLLY, ShAZAM!!!
01/30/2017 4:34PM
For a chance at a franchise QB for the next 10-15 years? If all we have to lose is an 8-8 season, sign me up.
01/30/2017 5:28PM
Enough already
Just enough... move both the damned teams and be done with major league sports in this city. Buffalo will not win championships in either football OR hockey...E V E R!!!! A small market like this will never register in the lucrative TV ratings, outside of Buffalo and therefore, neither league will ever "allow" Buffalo to reach the championship game, let alone win it. Nobody around the country will watch a series involving Buffalo, in part b/c most of the country really does NOT know or even care where Buffalo is. We are just a suburb of NYC to the rest of the nation. We cannot win...even when we do become good teams again, we may make the post season, but we'll not be allowed to advance far. It's a different climate in sports now...driven by only advertising $$$. Low TV ratings = low ad dollars. Mark my words and check back with me in 10 years
01/30/2017 5:47PM
This is the dumbest thing to do in the NFL.
There are 11 men on the NFL field not 5 like hoops and hockey. Also the average length of an NFL career is about 3 years. You clearly don't understand math if your using words like the next 17 years or the next 4 or next 3. Denver beat the Patriots last year because they had better players. They didn't rebuild, they got most of their players from free agency in a two year span. Peyton, Sanders, Ward, Ware, Talib. That's it people, in the NFL you have a 2-3 year window. Anyone who says rebuild or tank doesn't understand the NFL. Tanking or losing on purpose is the dumbest idea to entertain.
01/30/2017 5:54PM
Oh god tank again?
Well i guess we will not see or smell the playoffs, Until 2020. That's if we all still be around in 2020 because trump will try to start a war some dam where. Hey trump supporters, We think your president is doing one hell of a job on trying to sendAmerica to hell.
01/30/2017 6:14PM
You have to be kidding me?
Seriously? This is WGR's agenda they are pushing? Come on guys! Fix the defense and you are competitors? Why is that so hard to believe? You have the highest rate of putting the ball in the endzone in YEARS - yet because Tyrod doesnt THROW it 300 yards a game - he is terrible. How many pass attempts does he get a game? How many screens did they run so guys could get in the open field? Sammy? McCoy? Oh, speaking of Sammy - werent Tyrods passing statistics a little bit better (exaggeration) when you know, he had his main weapons all year? But you wouldnt want to include that in your narrative - because it would be too positive. You guys are seriously pathetic when you start your side agendas. Tanking is the DUMBEST thing you can do...DUMBEST thing in the NFL. Thank you for showing how incompetent YOU are as a sports "reporter"
01/30/2017 7:10PM
The tank will go on
With Doug Whaley at the helm if they dump the roster and tank it will be for years. Whaley is not a good enough GM to build a Super Bowl roster. This tank will go on for many seasons with Doug as GM. If Pegulas want to clean house and rebuild start with the GM or be prepared for many seasons at the bottom.
01/30/2017 7:53PM
The Next 5 Years
The last 17 years are very disappointing, but I'm more concerned with the next 5! I wouldn't mind keeping Taylor, at a cheaper price, but no way should they keep Gilmore. He didn't play for a new contract, he played not to get hurt and his play was terrible. With only 16 games, I think a tank is difficult....keep the nucleus together and fill in the spots. I want the best player available at #10...or trade down for more picks, but I want the best QB available in the 3rd or 4th round...not some project! and they should draft the best QB available every year until we get our next Kelly! Give the new coaches time to get everything together and lets play for the future...not the fear of the past!
01/30/2017 9:15PM
I'm not buying
The NFL and NHL are two different entities. You can easily quantify success with top 5 picks in the NHL. The NFL isn't so cut and dried. Franchise QB's can come in different rounds and I'm not going to even count the most obvious who tortures us twice a year every year. The Bills have ahd opportunities to grab that franchise QB, but didn't and there have been plenty of 1st round QB's that are busts including one local. However, the Bills had the opportunity to grab the following QB's outside of the 1st round; Andy Dalton (2nd), Derek Carr (2nd), Dak Prescott (4th), Kirk Cousins (4th), Drew Brees (2nd), and Russell Wilson (3rd). I would grab a QB this year, probably no later than the 3rd round, bring back Tyrod and let them Tyrod, Cardale and Mr. Hopeful battle it out. Comparitively Tyrod's salary is not out of line at his position. So if the new guy comes in and wins the job at a cheap salary, hooray for the Bills and Bills fans. When you add his salary with Tyrod's, we still aren't at the top of the heap salary wise at the position and in two years we can cut ourselves loose of Tyrod. Don't blame the system, blame the inept front office.
01/31/2017 2:15AM
We don't have many good players
Esp Gilmore , losers
01/31/2017 11:44AM
Bills tank is ok but....
The but here is why keep Whaley if you want to get to the bottom and draft first overall? Whaley is going to do what he can to win as many games as he can. Now the most wins the Buffalo Bills may get to is 6 next season but 6 wins will not get them the #1 pick. 6 wins will probably have them picking at #10 again next season. You want to get to the bottom as fast as you can? Then fire Whaley right now and bring in a GM that is committed to the cause of being bad now to result in future winning seasons. The Bills are in the exact same position that Cleveland was 3 years ago. After it became apparent shortly after the start of the 2014 season that the Browns were one of the worst teams in the NFL they proceeded to make changes by firing their GM and bringing in a new GM who would see things through the right way. If you want to rebuild and rebuild the complete and correct way fire Doug Whaley right now.
01/31/2017 3:52PM
He is doing as he promised. Refreshing. A change for once, you Buffalo, NY losers!
01/31/2017 5:13PM
Seventeen Years
01/31/2017 11:11PM
F trump
And the person who said he doing a great job. Understand red neck.
02/01/2017 10:02AM
Re F Trump
Believe Hillary called them deplorables. But you should get over it, snowflake. The leftists lost. They have s lit in common with the bills and Sabres. Patriots are winners and Tom an Bill support Trump.
02/01/2017 1:21PM
Or Adams? Either tank's fine with me.
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Are you sold on Robin Lehner as the Sabres #1 goalie?
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